Updated Friday, August 29, 2014 as of 2:09 PM ET

From the Courthouse to the Wirehouse: Merrill Lynch's Racquel Oden

Growing up on Long Island, in New York, my favorite television program was LA Law. People who meet me today, if they havenít seen me in a while, are shocked that Iím not an attorney. From the time I was a very young girl, that was always what I thought I was going to be.

While in high school, I had a wonderful opportunity to intern at Nassau Countyís human rights commission, and I spent some very eye-opening time visiting Long Islandís jails. I thought my noble calling was to become an attorney who helped innocent individuals who were unjustly incarcerated.

But after completing my undergraduate degree in political science, I took a year off to work in the marketing department at Publishers Clearing House. I really loved the business environment and working with clients. So instead of returning to law school, I decided to get my MBA with a concentration in finance.

Out of school, I was hired by Morgan Stanley to work as an equity trader. This was the í90s, the Internet boom, and I knew the Internet was going to be the next cutting-edge thing. So I returned to school at night to learn HTML coding.

After getting certified in Internet design, I was offered an opportunity at Paine Webber to help create its client Internet strategy. This was a great opportunity for me, because it allowed me to work one-on-one with clients and advisors. Later I played other senior roles at UBS, working with clients and advisors in product sales.

I joined Merrill Lynch in 2010 as the head of global product strategy and new business development. We had survived the meltdown, but the business had changed and what clients demanded of us now was different. I worked on and helped roll out what we call our optimal practice model, which views everything we do through the lens of clientsí goals and priorities.

I had always worked primarily with our existing advisors, but I was asked to expand my role and take on new advisor development. Thereís a need to expand the businessówe all get thatóbut how? Thereís a capacity limitation. But if you give our senior advisors an opportunity to work with someone new who has a skill set that complements theirs, allowing them to grow their business without departing from the way they have successfully developed it, then thatís something they readily embrace.

I believe Iím having my career-defining moment, running our new advisor development program. This is why I wake up every day, and I couldnít be more excited . . . helping to mold the next generation of advisors and meet the noble calling of serving our clients.

As told to On Wall Street editor Elliot Kass.

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